diumenge, 26 de gener de 2014

Lessons from the Battle of the Paracel Islands*

On January 16, 1974, the Republic of Vietnam Navy (RVN) discovered the presence of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the Crescent Group in the western Paracel Islands, which was held by South Vietnam. This was an unexpected development, because notwithstanding the reduced U.S. military assistance to Saigon after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973, and subsequent reduction of South Vietnamese garrisons on the islands, the Chinese had not taken unilateral actions to subvert the status quo – by which the Amphitrite Group in the eastern Paracels and the Crescent Group were respectively under Chinese and South Vietnamese control.
Over the next two days, the opposing naval forces jostled with one another in close-proximity maneuvers off the islands, before a firefight erupted as the South Vietnamese troops attempted to recapture Duncan Island. The skirmish subsequently escalated with overwhelming Chinese reinforcements deployed to the clash zone, including close air support staged from nearby Hainan Island and missile-armed Hainan-class patrol vessels. Shorn of American naval support, given that the U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet was then scaling down its presence in the South China Sea following the peace accords of 1973, the RVN was utterly defeated. Beijing swiftly exploited the naval victory with an amphibious landing in force to complete its control of all the Paracel Islands.
The Battle of the Paracel Islands has since gone down history as the first Sino-Vietnamese naval skirmish in the quest for control over the South China Sea isles. The Sino-Vietnamese naval skirmish in the nearby Spratly Islands in 1988 was the second and final such instance. Since then, tensions have eased. There have been continued exchanges at the ruling party level and between the countries’ militaries (including the hosting of a PLA Navy South Sea Fleet delegation to a Vietnamese naval base). Beijing and Hanoi have also recently inaugurated mutual consultations on joint marine resource development in the South China Sea.
However, the Battle of Paracel Islands in 1974 yields some useful and enduring lessons for Hanoi and its ongoing naval modernization in the South China Sea, particularly in the face of geopolitical developments.
Enduring Lesson #1: Diplomacy is the First Recourse… But Not the Sole Recourse
No international and regional treaties constitute perfect safeguards against unilateral action, including threat or use of force. The landmark Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea inked in 2002 between China and the Southeast Asian claimants has not been entirely successful. In fact, unilateral actions aimed at subverting the status quo in the South China Sea by threat or use of force has continued to dominate. Recent video footage revealed by China’s CCTV in January 2014 showed a standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese law enforcement ships off the Paracel Islands back in 2007. More recent, recurring incidents included the harassment of Vietnamese survey ships by Chinese vessels, the Sino-Philippine maritime standoff in the Scarborough Shoal in April 2012 and, later, the show of force by Chinese surveillance ships and naval frigates off the Philippine-held Second Thomas Shoal. These episodes bear an eerie resemblance to the sort of naval jostling that led to the skirmish back in 1974.
Even as the South China Sea claimants engaged in consultations on a Code of Conduct, upon unilaterally declaring an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea in December 2013, Beijing declared indisputable rights to create ADIZs in other areas if it so desired. An ADIZ over the South China Sea, if ever established, would undoubtedly strengthen Beijing’s hand over the disputed waters, augmenting regular unilateral fishing bans, an earlier expanded maritime law enforcement authority for the Hainan authorities as well as the latest Chinese fisheries law requiring foreign fishing vessels to seek permission from Beijing to operate in much of the South China Sea. These developments, if they continue unabated, will only heighten the risk of accidental or premeditated clashes in the disputed waters.
Enduring Lesson #2: Extra-regional Powers Neither Always Stay… Nor Always Help
There has been growing interest among extra-regional powers in the South China Sea. Besides the U.S. Asia-Pacific rebalancing, Japan under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has intensified its Southeast Asian diplomatic offensive, one of the objectives being to promote Tokyo’s territorial stance in the East China Sea. Vietnam has become one of the major beneficiaries of this development. During the 4th U.S.-Vietnam Defense Policy Dialogue held in Washington in late October 2013, an agreement was reached to enhance maritime security cooperation. In the same month, Tokyo was reportedly keen to supply patrol vessels as part of a plan to bolster Vietnam’s maritime security capacity-building efforts. Also notable, Hanoi is enjoying budding defense ties with New Delhi, having hosted regular Indian Navy port visits in the past decade.
Still, none of the extra-regional powers has taken any side on the South China Sea disputes, preferring to focus only on freedom of navigation. This means that even though Washington or Tokyo have legitimate reasons to intervene if vital sea lines of communications through the South China Sea are threatened by the specter of armed conflict, any extra-regional help is far from certain. For instance, even if the U.S. Pacific Command is able to detect tell-tale signs of unusual Chinese military movements in the South China Sea, it may not be able to react in time. The U.S. Navy Seventh Fleet, as part of the rebalancing strategy, has intensified maritime surveillance in the area: the new Littoral Combat Ship U.S.S. Freedom is said to be conducting more than mere training missions in the area while the U.S. Navy was reported to have stepped up maritime aerial surveillance since July 2012.
However, during the skirmish in 1974 Saigon sought assistance from the U.S. Seventh Fleet, but it was under orders not to intervene in the disputes and no help arrived for the RVN off the Paracels. Washington is likely to adopt the same stance today, even if a renewed Sino-Vietnamese naval clash were to erupt, especially in localized contexts that do not necessarily impinge upon freedom of navigation by other users. Moreover, the present and future PLA Navy South Sea Fleet is no longer the same run-down, coastal-oriented force operating Soviet-era small patrol and attack forces it used to be. With its steady accumulation of force projection capabilities, including amphibious assault, the PLA Navy is in a better position than back in 1974 to deploy sizeable forces over sustained durations at greater distances to assert sovereignty, and its overall combat power will be far more potent if ever unleashed in the South China Sea.
Enduring Lesson #3: The Need for At Least Limited Sea Control Capabilities
There is no way for Vietnam to quantitatively match the PLA naval capabilities in the South China Sea. Consistent with Hanoi’s policy pronunciations, an arms race with China is not only impossible in the first place, but is considered potentially detrimental to Vietnam’s ongoing Renovation process. Vietnam’s post-Cold War naval modernization has been predicated on filling capacity shortfalls after previous decades of neglect. In recent years, the Vietnam People’s Navy had made notable strides in acquiring new hardware to replace the ageing Soviet-era equipment. However, the new, mostly Russian-supplied capabilities, such as Gepard-3.9 light frigates, Kilo-class submarines, Su-30MK2V Flanker multi-role fighters equipped for maritime strike and Yakhont/Bastion coastal defense missile batteries, Dutch-built SIGMA-class corvettes as well as locally-built coastal patrol and attack craft all point to a force modernization pathway based primarily on denying an adversary access to the disputed zone. They do not suggest an ability to secure Vietnam’s own access.
Yet, the Battle of the Paracel Islands in 1974 highlighted the need to not just deny an adversary from blockading the South China Sea features but also to secure Vietnam’s own access to those exposed and vulnerable garrisons. Only a shift from sea denial to sea control can hope to attain that. Given the durable peace along the land borders with her neighbors, Vietnam should logically emphasize air-sea warfighting capabilities. For status quo-oriented Vietnam, much akin to what Saigon was back in 1974, the foreseeable combat scenario in a renewed South China Sea clash will encompass the need for Vietnamese forces to recapture seized features, or at least reinforce existing garrisons in the face of hostile attack. Under this scenario, Vietnam’s defense predicament is perhaps no different from Japan’s with respect to the East China Sea dispute. Tokyo has outlined in its recent new defense strategy the need for robust, integrated mobile defense, which envisaged the need for the Self-Defense Force to recapture the East China Sea isles in times of hostilities. Certainly Vietnam cannot hope to muster the same range of capabilities as Japan could, given economic constraints. To build at least limited sea control capabilities, Hanoi ought to focus on improving early warning and expanding amphibious sealift capacity.
Existing Vietnamese early warning capabilities are vested in a static electronic surveillance network arrayed along the Vietnamese mainland coast and in occupied South China Sea features, augmented only in recent years by maritime patrol aircraft of the Vietnamese navy and coastguard. These planes are mainly designed for surface surveillance, yet are handicapped in endurance and lack adequate anti-submarine warfare capabilities especially in view of the increasing PLA submarine challenge. A high-endurance maritime patrol aircraft fitted with longer-range sensors will be appropriate, and arguably more survivable than static installations. The Vietnam Naval Infantry, which specializes in amphibious assault and has been streamlined over the decades, has become a leaner yet meaner force with the acquisition of better equipment. Still, it remains short on amphibious sealift capacity, given that the Soviet and ex-U.S. vintage landing ships were too old and mostly no longer operational. Hanoi’s fledgling naval shipbuilders have so far produced a small handful of new assault transports ostensibly to fill this gap. However, more such vessels are required to enable the Vietnam Naval Infantry to project more substantial forces with greater rapidity in order to reinforce the South China Sea garrisons or to recapture them from an adversary.
Final Thoughts
The Battle of the Paracel Islands might have happened a long forty years ago. Still, even though the South China Sea has seen relative peace, it pays for Hanoi to remain vigilant by sustaining the pace of its naval modernization attempts. While diplomacy is the preferred recourse and extra-regional powers have become more heavily involved in the region, adequate military power in the form of defense self-help remains necessary, especially when the area continues to be fraught with uncertainty. Compared to the RVN, for now and in the foreseeable future the Vietnam People’s Navy and Air Force faces a challenge far greater than before in preserving the status quo in the South China Sea.
Ngo Minh Tri is Managing Editor of the Thanh Nien newspaper, based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Koh Swee Lean Collin is an associate research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University based in Singapore. This article reflects the personal viewpoints of the authors and not representative of their respective organizations
*Article publicat a The Diplomat. El compartim per l'importància que té sempre la perspectiva històrica en els conflictes del present.

dimarts, 21 de gener de 2014


By Mark Nolan / 2014-01-09 18:31:08

Despite increased budgets and investment in certain weapon developments, the Spanish Ministry of Defence states that their overall budget has depleted by 32% since the start of the financial crisis, with 8.4 billion in the kitty in 2008, dropping to a mere 5.75 billion planned for 2014.

As a result, the Ministry says that it has no choice but to reduce costs, thus resulting in a significant reduction in high profile military elements, like the decommissioning of 18 naval ships in the past 6 years.

One of the most iconic ships to be withdrawn last year was the aircraft carrier Príncipe de Asturias, decommissioned after 25 years of service, considered a somewhat tragic sight when she arrived at the Arsenal Militar de Ferrol for final discharge from service. But as the last Captain of the vessel, Alfredo Rodríguez Fariñas, explained, modernization and maintenance of the 'Prince of Asturias' cost the MoD a hundred million per year.

Part of the strategy is the withdrawal of these costly and purpose built ships, in favour of more modern craft that meets the needs to the Navy´s international mission, such as the activities in the Indian Ocean where the frigate Álvaro de Bazán and maritime action ship Tornado are currently patrolling, and the ship Cantabria, currently in the sea off the Australian coast.

In actual fact, the Navy has lost some 25 ships in recent years, mostly patrol vessels and 4 landing craft, but a number of new ships have joined the fleet. The construction of other vessels is currently on hold, although it i considered only a matter of time before those projects become reality, which will close the gap further.

This entire Navy is facing a restructuring drive, similar to that undertaken in the Army and its commitment to creating more multi-purpose brigades, and also in line with reduced spending on airborne resources. 

It is also envisaged that two American ships will arrive at the Rota Naval Station in Cádiz in February, the first two American destroyers, the “USS Ross” and “USS Donald Cook”, which form part of the naval component of the NATO missile defence system. The arrival of two other destroyers in 2015 will also strengthen the strategic relationship between the U.S. Navy and Spanish Navy, an incentive aimed to address the short to medium term optimism despite uncertainty caused by restructuring.

* Notícia publicada a The Leader. Els excessos acaben passant factura. Sobredimensionar unes forces per escenaris difícilment probables, acaba topant amb la realitat. Més encara si aquesta està absolutament determinada per la crisi.

PLA Navy group begins long-distance exercise*

A group of warships from the People's Liberation Army Navy set sail from a port in Hainan province on Monday and started a long-distance patrol training mission.
The group is composed of several surface warships from the South Sea Fleet: the amphibian landing craft Changbaishan and the missile destroyers Haikou and Wuhan, the PLA Navy said in a statement on Monday.
The training operation will involve a range of tasks, including supportive engagement — assisting other ships that are exchanging fire with hostile forces, said the statement.
They will also practice tactical maneuvers in the South China Sea, the Western Pacific Ocean and the Eastern Indian Ocean.
The group carries three helicopters, a hovercraft and a company of marines. The flagship, the Changbaishan, is the most advanced amphibian landing craft in the Chinese navy, boasting a heavy tonnage and cutting-edge weapons.
The Haikou and Wuhan missile destroyers are capable of defending against enemy aircraft and submarines as well as incoming missiles. They have previously taken part in escort missions in the pirate-plagued Gulf of Aden, as well as a joint drill with the Russian military, according to the PLA Navy statement.
Soon after leaving port, the two destroyers set off to join submarines on an exercise simulating the breaking of a hostile blockade.
"The patrol training mission aims to test the combat capabilities of the navy's ships, submarines and aircraft," said Lieutenant Admiral Jiang Weilie, commander of the South Sea Fleet.
"It is also intended to explore effective methods for long-distance training operations, which have become a regular thing for our navy," he said, adding that the mission is the navy's first long-distance voyage of 2014.

* Notícia publicada a ECNS. El seguiment dels exercicis que realitza una flota, en aquest cas la xinesa, ens pot aportar dades interessants sobre el seu estat de forma, així com de possibles intencions futures.

diumenge, 19 de gener de 2014

Els Mossos de l'aigua: consolidats i desbordats*

ALBERT SOLÉ | Sabadell | 12/01/2014 00:00

La unitat subaquàtica dels Mossos d'Esquadra compleix aquest gener cinc anys des que va entrar en servei. Just en el moment que més se'n parla, perquè han sigut els encarregats de buscar des del 22 de desembre l'ultralleuger desaparegut al mar, a Pals. Els primers dies en solitari, i després -passat Nadal- amb la col·laboració dels GEAS de la Guàrdia Civil (Grup Especial d'Activitats Subaquàtiques). Un cop trobada l'avioneta i els cossos, però, els submarinistes dels Mossos no podran treure'ls de l'aigua perquè no estan preparats per baixar a tanta profunditat (87 metres), ja que ells només tenen formació per fer-ho fins a 40 metres. Aquesta és una de les limitacions que té aquesta unitat especialitzada de la policia catalana, encara molt jove, però el seu handicap principal és la falta d'efectius.

Quan es va crear la unitat eren 15 agents. El pla director deia que havien d'anar creixent a poc a poc, però cinc anys després només són 12. Durant aquest temps tres submarinistes han demanat el canvi de destí, i el sostinspector responsable, Jordi Marín, no els ha pogut substituir per culpa de les retallades. No està previst fer cap convocatòria nova a curt termini, tot i que cada any la demanen, i amb 12 agents han de cobrir tots els serveis que sorgeixen als 700 quilòmetres de costa, en qualsevol riu, embassament, llac o estany de Catalunya. Al principi les seves actuacions estaven acotades sota l'aigua, però ara també s'encarreguen de les actuacions aquàtiques amb les dues barques que tenen, una de 12 metres d'eslora i una altra de 7. "El més dur no és la feina en si, sinó que som pocs per fer molts serveis", explica un dels agents, Xavi González, que recorda que sovint fan jornades de 18 hores: "Recordo un dia que vam estar al matí a Llançà i a la tarda a Tortosa".

La policia integral de l'aigua

Tot i ser la policia catalana de l'aigua, amb 12 agents no poden arribar a tot, per això compten amb la col·laboració -malgrat algunes enganxades per motius competencials- dels GRAE dels Bombers i dels GEAS de la Guàrdia Civil, que tenen molts més efectius -poden cobrir els 365 dies les 24 hores- i molta més experiència, i de qui han après molt. L'objectiu, a la llarga, és que aquesta unitat subaquàtica dels Mossos fos prou gran i tingués prou infraestructura per ser la policia integral de l'aigua a Catalunya.

Les tasques dels agents de la unitat subaquàtica són les mateixes que té un mosso de terra, però a l'aigua. Si s'ha de buscar un cos desaparegut sota l'aigua, com en el cas de l'ultralleuger, si s'ha de buscar l'arma d'un crim en una bassa, si han de fer fotos i l'atestat d'una mort violenta en un riu, com en el cas de l'accident de les Llosses a la C-17, ho fan ells. Però també els toca vigilar la prova aquàtica d'una triatló, la Festa del Cel de la Mercè, i fins i tot acompanyar l'arribada en vaixell dels Reis d'Orient a Barcelona.

El 2006, el llavors major dels Mossos d'Esquadra, Joan Unió, va ser el primer que va creure que la policia catalana havia de tenir una unitat especialitzada subaquàtica, però va ser el cap de la Regió Policial Central del moment, Joan Martínez Roma, qui més va insistir per convèncer els polítics que calia crear aquesta unitat. El 2007 es va redactar el pla director que definia com hauria de ser el cos dels submarinistes dels Mossos, el 2008 es va fer la convocatòria -s'hi van presentar 200 mossos amb titulació mínima de busseig- i se'n van escollir 15, que es van formar durant vuit mesos, i el gener del 2009 va entrar en servei.

Feina dura en perill d'extinció

L'agent Sergi Pina no s'ha pogut treure del cap la imatge de la parella d'avis holandesos que es van suïcidar llançant-se al riu Fluvià amb una motxilla de pedres el dia de Nadal del 2010, i quan els va localitzar a quatre metres de profunditat els va veure agafats de la mà. L'agent Toni Carayol explica: "El que més m'ha impactat ha sigut treure el cadàver d'un nen de sota l'aigua, et queda gravat". Per desgràcia, la unitat subaquàtica no té ni la infraestructura ni els efectius per tenir prou temps de reacció per salvar vides. Quan ells arriben, ja no hi ha res a fer. Molts dels 12 submarinistes dels Mossos voregen els 40 anys i, sent una feina tan física -l'equipació pesa 45 kg-, tard o d'hora ho hauran de deixar. No està fixat el límit d'edat, però tots són conscients que, si no se'n cansen ells abans, serà el seu cos el que dirà prou. El perill pot arribar si el relleu d'aquests 12 especialistes no arriba aviat. "Si això passa, ens acabarem extingint, com el linx", admet el sotsinspector i cap de la unitat, Jordi Marín.

* Notícia publicada al diari Ara. Realment és trist que una de les millors unitats del CME s'hagi de veure així, operant gairebé per voluntarisme.

USNS John Glenn (MLP 2) Successfully Completes Builder's Trials*


The USNS John Glenn (MLP 2) successfully completed Builder's Sea Trials Jan. 13. During the week of sea trials the shipbuilder, General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO), conducted comprehensive tests to demonstrate the performance of all of the ship's major systems. 

"John Glenn performed extremely well, a testament to the thorough preparation by NASSCO, the Navy MLP program office, and our Supervisors of Shipbuilding," said Capt. Henry Stevens, strategic and theater sealift program manager, Program Executive Office, Ships. "This ship is well on its way to acceptance trials and delivery later this year." 
  USNS John Glenn is the second ship of the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) class. Using the commercially designed Alaska-class crude oil carrier as its base, the Navy's Strategic and Theater Sealift Program Office (PMS 385) worked in conjunction with NASSCO to develop a design that supports the Navy's core capabilities while maintaining low costs.

MLP has a maximum speed of 15 knots and range of 9,500 nautical miles. The ship has tankage for 100,000 gallons of potable water and can hold 380,000 gallons of JP-5 jet fuel. Acting as a mobile seabase, MLP will be part of the critical access infrastructure that supports the deployment of forces and supplies to provide prepositioned equipment and supplies with flexible distribution in support of a variety of missions including humanitarian support and sustainment of traditional military missions.

Following Builder's Trials, the ship will be inspected by the Navy Board of Inspection and Survey during a series of Acceptance Trials. Delivery of the ship to the Navy is expected in March 2014.

As one of the Defense Department's largest acquisition organizations, PEO Ships is responsible for executing the development and procurement of all destroyers, amphibious ships, special mission and support ships, and special warfare craft. Delivering high-quality war fighting assets - while balancing affordability and capability - is key to supporting the nation's maritime strategy. 

* Notícia publicada a Navy Recognition. Passades les proves inicials, en principi satisfactòries, caldrà veure com es comporten els MLP en situacions operatives reals.

Vicente Boluda: “Puertos del Estado és un tap per a la competitivitat dels ports”*

Violeta Tena | ElTemps 1536, 19/11/2013

Vicente Boluda Fos (València, 1955) és president de l’Associació Valenciana d’Empresaris (AVE), un influent lobby que aixopluga els principals empresaris del País Valencià. A més, aquest madridista confès té una flota de més de 400 vaixells, la qual cosa el converteix en el principal navilier d’Europa. “Sense bones connexions ferroviàries, els ports de la Mediterrània no poden fer la competència als del nord d’Europa”, remarca 

Fotografia: Prats i Camps

Fa sis anys, quan EL TEMPS us va entrevistar, diguéreu que no contemplàveu vendre l’empresa. En aquest període de crisi i mala maror, no us han sorgit pretendents? 
—No, continuem igual. La nostra primera companyia es va obrir l’any 1837. Són molts anys perquè ara la nostra generació decidisca vendre’s una empresa que ha anat fent-se gran durant vora dos segles. La intenció és seguir el nostre camí  molts més anys. 
—Els ports del Mediterrani s’han plantejat com a objectiu captar una part del comerç amb Àsia, que ara entra pels ports del nord d’Europa. Vós que xafeu el dia a dia dels ports, ho veieu factible? 
—Això que es planteja és difícilíssim. Per exemple, València mou al voltant de 68 milions de tones, quan Rotterdam en mou 290. Ells tenen l’avantatge de disposar d’una distribució capil·lar a través del ferrocarril i la navegació fluvial. És molt complicat que els ports del sud puguem passar-los al davant. En tot cas, si es vol aconseguir, és impossible que ho fem a través del camió, que és el mitjà que hem fet servir fins ara, perquè això és del tot inviable. Sense bones connexions ferroviàries, no podem fer la competència als ports del nord. 
—A falta de tenir un corredor mediterrani d’altes prestacions (amb plataformes diferenciades de mercaderies i passatgers), creieu que la solució del tercer fil que ha donat el Ministeri de Foment és bona? 
—Em sembla que és una solució mínima i que cal apostar pel corredor mediterrani amb totes les seues capacitats. El que passa és que mentre no hi haja diners per a fer-ho, el tercer fil és un pedaç acceptable, però caldrà pensar en altres solucions si a llarg termini volem ser competitius. En tot cas, em sembla molt optimista pensar que els ports del sud poden invertir les tendències actuals. És com posar a competir un 600 i un tràiler. 
—En aquest ordre de coses, en quins termes s’ha d’establir la relació entre els ports de Barcelona i València?
 —Ha de ser la relació de dos ports que competisquen entre ells. 
—Darrerament, València li ha guanyat la partida a Barcelona en tràfic de contenidors... 
—València té un avantatge sobre Barcelona, com és el fet de disposar de tot l’hinterland de la zona centre, que és immens. Per contra, Barcelona té una terminal nova, semiautomàtica, amb uns costos d’estiba molt per sota dels de València. A Barcelona han sabut negociar molt millor i això fa que els costos siguen més baixos. Però és que a Algesires també hi ha una terminal semiautomàtica. 
—És a dir, que València s’ha de posar les piles. 
—El problema és que les piles valen molts diners. En aquest món, si t’adorms, et passa com a la gambeta, que se t’emporta el corrent. Recuperar línies i tràfics és molt difícil. En els últims mesos ha baixat la càrrega transportada a València perquè les companyies han preferit anar-se’n a Sines, perquè el cost de l’estiba és més baix. 
—Els ports haurien de tenir més autonomia de gestió a l’hora de determinar les seues estratègies?
 —Sí. Crec que tenir una figura com la de Puertos del Estado és un tap per al desenvolupament dels ports. Jo crec que els ports haurien de dependre dels ajuntaments, com a França, o dels landers, com a Alemanya. I ho crec així perquè els ports són part de la ciutat. Un port és una factoria que està dins la ciutat i em sembla molt bé que l’estat vulga ser estat central, però crec que l’actual plantejament és equivocat. Resulta molt molest haver de tenir el vist-i-plau de Ports cada volta que es pren una decisió. L’actual sistema d’organització dels ports no té la flexibilitat ni l’agilitat que s’espera d’un port modern. Crec que l’actual organització és un endarreriment. 
—Caldria més descentralització?
 —Totalment. Jo em moc molt per Madrid i et puc assegurar que assegut en un despatx de la Castellana, els problemes es veuen d’una manera distinta. Així com hi ha aspectes de l’organització territorial que han d’estar molt centralitzats, en la qüestió dels ports crec que l’estructura es podria millorar molt. Què fan 300 funcionaris de Puertos del Estado al centre de Madrid dirigint la política de tots els ports d’Espanya?
Per què un port, autònomament, no pot flexibilitzar les tarifes o fer descomptes en funció d’escales? Jo el que demane és descentralització perquè siguen ports dinàmics i que, a més, estiguen gestionats amb criteris competitius. Les decisions dels ports les han de prendre els professionals dels mateixos ports. 
—Quin model s’hauria de seguir?
 —A Espanya els ports havien de ser autònoms. Però això de l’autonomia, com passa en aquest país, només es va quedar en el nom. D’autonomia, en tenen ben poca, els ports. L’actual model de Puertos del Estado resta eficàcia i flexibilitat i, per tant, fa perdre competitivitat. Sé que es una opinió que pot resultar un poc incòmoda a alguns, però és que és la veritat. 
—Parlem ara des de la seua condició de president de l’Associació Valenciana d’Empresaris (AVE). En els últims dos anys han convertit la qüestió del finançament en un dels seus cavalls de batalla. Com pot ser que  havent-hi dos governs del mateix color a Madrid i València, la reivindicació valenciana no faça forat a Madrid? 
—Jo és que no ho entenc... [silenci] És que no s’entén de cap de les maneres. Nosaltres fa dos anys que vam presentar un informe on explicàvem, ras i curt, quines han sigut les conseqüències de tenir un finançament per sota de la mitjana. 
—En una compareixença pública amb periodistes a l’inici del curs polític vós diguéreu que el problema estava en el fet que els valencians érem “dúctils i meninfots”. 
—I és que ho som. El fet de ser dúctils, meninfots i individualistes explica moltes de les coses que ens passen als valencians, també en la qüestió del finançament. A Catalunya, quan tenen un problema, tothom fa pinya per aconseguir allò que s’han proposat. Ací fem el contrari. Això, vist des de Madrid, dóna una imatge de divisió que perjudica la credibilitat del mateix projecte. 
—Es va intentar que hi haguera un acord entre els diferents grups polítics per a traslladar a Madrid l’informe del grup d’experts de les Corts sobre el finançament... 
—Nosaltres aquesta falta d’acord no l’entenem de cap de les maneres.
 —Els partits de l’oposició diuen que és perquè el PP no vol reclamar a Madrid el finançament pel qual plora a València...
 —Jo no sé per què és que no es posen d’acord, però tots els partits polítics han de saber que això ens beneficia a tots. 
—El govern ha deixat ben clar que, en contra del que es reclama ací, el model de finançament no es revisarà fins la segona meitat de 2014, amb la qual cosa no començarà a aplicar-se fins 2015. Què us sembla? 
—Jo crec que fins 2015 tenen tot això tancat. L’única cosa que dic és que es podrien avançar coses perquè, en alguns aspectes, el nou repartiment de fons es puga fer amb caràcter retroactiu. No crec que siga una cosa tan complicada... Som conscients que els diners que hi ha disponibles són limitats, però això no impedeix que el repartiment es puga fer d’una manera més equànime. 
—Quan el president de la Comunitat de Madrid ha parlat de la necessitat de revisar ja el model, Fabra se n’ha desmarcat i ha dit que calia respectar els terminis que marca Hisenda. Trobeu a faltar més bel·ligerància per part de la Generalitat a l’hora de reivindicar? 
—Nosaltres sempre li l’hem reclamada, en aquest assumpte. Em consta que Fabra fa el possible i l’impossible. La nostra obligació és insistir-hi tant com siga necessari. 
—I creieu que s’ha de reclamar el deute històric? 
—Crec que ens han d’allargar la mà, igual que els l’han allargada a altres territoris en determinats moments. València ha contribuït molt a la riquesa d’Espanya, tant en els moments plàcids com en els complicats i això s’ha de compensar. És just que ara se senta aquesta reivindicació. Fa vint anys que estan fotent-nos. 
—En una entrevista a José Vicente González (president de la patronal valenciana) en aquest setmanari, va dir que estava “fart d’ofrenar glòries a Espanya”. Vós també n’esteu? 
—L’himne és l’himne i millor que el deixem com està. El que no pot ser és que tinguem un determinat problema i que es vaja agreujant any rere any. Tampoc no pot ser que les inversions directes de l’estat disminuïsquen any rere any. Això és menystindre’ns de forma injustificada. Aquesta situació ens perjudica als valencians i a tot Espanya, perquè ens impedeix contribuir a la seua riquesa. 
—En altres territoris, d’aquesta situació en diuen espoli... 
—Jo no m’atrevisc a parlar d’espoli, però, en tot cas, aquesta situació ens perjudica clarament. 
—Què us ha semblat el tancament de Radiotelevisió Valenciana?
 —D’una banda, jo estic d’acord que els valencians no podem cremar 100 milions d’euros en una televisió. De l’altra, no puc comprendre com hem arribat a aquesta situació; ni sé qui n’és el culpable; i que tot plegat provoque que s’haja de tancar la televisió, m’enutja. Haver arribat a aquesta situació em sembla d’una irresponsabilitat absoluta. En quin cap cap que la Generalitat no siga capaç de fer bé un ERO? M’agradaria saber qui n’és responsable, perquè el perjudici, el dany i el cost que ha provocat és molt gran. No puc comprendre com han aconseguit fer-ho tan malament.
—Aquest 9 d’Octubre, el diari El País va publicar una enquesta que pronosticava que el Partit Popular perdria la majoria absoluta.  Als grans empresaris valencians els fa por aquest escenari? 
—No, en absolut. Nosaltres som empresaris i sabem conviure en totes les situacions. Els canvis d’aquest tipus no ens fan gens de por perquè nosaltres no ens dediquem a la política, sinó a treballar per les nostres empreses i fem via independentment de quin color polític governe. 
—I què us semblaria un tripartit format per PSPV, Compromís i Esquerra Unida? 
—És un escenari que no m’agrada, no tant pels components del tripartit sinó pel fet en si que es tracte d’un govern a tres veus. Cadascú voldrà portar l’aigua al seu molí  i acabaran a bufetades i sense atendre les necessitats de govern, que és al capdavall el que han d’atendre. Si s’han d’estar en les seues coses internes, això serà un desastre total. M’és igual que el tripartit siga d’esquerres que de dretes, l’embolic serà el mateix. 

* Entrevista publicada al Setmanari El Temps. Interessants declaracions del president de l'Associació Valenciana d'Empresaris respecte a la situació i política portuària de l'Estat.

Russian Missile Corvettes Ready to Enter Service in Caspian*

MOSCOW, January 13 (RIA Novosti) – A pair of new missile corvettes have completed acceptance trials and will enter service in Russia’s Caspian Flotilla in the first quarter of this year, the Southern Military District said Monday.
The two ships, the Grad Sviyazhsk and Uglich, are the first in the new Buyan-M class and are equipped with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles.
The vessels began sea trials in August and completed four test launches of the Kalibr-NK missile, which can engage surface, underwater and coastal targets.
The five countries bordering the Caspian Sea – Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Iran – all maintain a naval presence in the sea.

 * Notícia publicada a RIA Novosti. Malgrat que sembla que la tensió amb l'Iran pot haver baixat, Moscou nou perd l'oportunitat d'assegurar la seva posició a la Mar Càspia.

divendres, 10 de gener de 2014

Battle stations! Navy scrambles destroyer to challenge Russian warship off British coast (but it takes 24 hours to make 600-mile journey from Portsmouth base - was Putin testing our response time?)*

A fully armed Royal Navy warship was scrambled to challenge a missile-carrying Russian vessel  in the waters off Britain just days before Christmas, defence sources revealed last night.
In a calculated test of Britain’s reduced naval capacity in the North Sea, the Russian warship came within 30 miles of the coast.
It was detected nearing Scotland, but the only ship the Royal Navy had available to respond after Ministry of Defence cuts was in Portsmouth, resulting in a delay of 24 hours until it was in position.
The threatening approach towards Britain’s territorial waters triggered a top-secret Navy and Air Force operation co-ordinated by the military top brass at the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ) bunker at Northwood, just outside London.
RAF reconnaissance aircraft tracked the progress of the Russian warship as it neared north-east Scotland, and the tension heightened when aerial photographs revealed the ship was carrying a full payload of guided missiles.
Commanders at PJHQ decided to send the new Type 45 destroyer HMS Defender, which is Britain’s immediate-response ship during a national security crisis.
The Russian ship waited in the Moray Forth, a stretch of water  that flows into Loch Ness, for Defender to arrive, as if her captain were recording the Navy’s response times.
At the time, Defender was in dock at Portsmouth. Her crew were forced to make the 600-mile journey around the coastline, because budget cutbacks mean there are no maritime patrol vessels sailing off Scotland.

‘Defender was fully equipped with Sea Viper surface-to-air missiles and guns capable of firing 40kg shells as far as 18 miles. Her captain and crew knew this was the real deal and were prepared to engage.’
A tense stand-off ensued when Defender reached the Moray Firth. While the MoD last night declined  to explain the specific international protocols adhered to at such a delicate moment, The Mail on Sunday understands the crews exchanged radio messages in an attempt to establish each other’s intentions. 
No shots were fired but Defender’s 190-strong crew remained at battle stations throughout the confrontation.
The British crew then watched as the Russian ship retreated. They followed it north to the Baltic Sea, where a Russian task force was on legitimate manoeuvres. Defender then sailed back to Scotland, docking in Glasgow on Friday.
Last night, Russian expert Jonathan Eyal, from the military think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, said Russia had intended to intimidate Britain.

He added: ‘The Russian fleet, which is growing in strength  and expanding its sphere of influence, wanted to show a presence  in the North Sea and sail as close  as possible to the national sea boundary.
‘The Russians knew exactly what they were doing. They were saying, “We are back in business in the North Sea and we are powerful.”
‘They knew how far they could sail before they would be required to withdraw.
‘The Russians may also be inspecting nuclear installations in Scotland, with a view towards the independence referendum. Certainly the Russians would see the country as more vulnerable if it were no longer part of Britain.
‘The approach was part of a pattern of behaviour, and the action is more threatening when considered in this context.
‘Last year Russian military jets approached Swedish airspace and only withdrew when the Swedes scrambled their aircraft.’
After the confrontation between Defender and the Russian ship, which is believed to have begun  on December 20, the Russian military news agency Interfax-AVN released a statement claiming  that the vessel was sheltering in the Moray Firth because of adverse weather conditions.
This is the second such incident  in two years. In December 2011, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko and escort ship Yaroslav Mudry sailed close to Scotland before being challenged by the Royal Navy.
Defender is the fifth of the Navy’s six state-of-the-art Type 45 destroyers – she was built in Glasgow, which is one of her two affiliated cities. The other is Exeter.
The MoD refused to comment last night for operational reasons.

* Notícia publicada al Daily Mail. Sembla que les retallades en defensa, en el cas del Regne Unit, poden sortir molt cares.

dilluns, 6 de gener de 2014

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier completes sea trials*

China's Liaoning aircraft carrier battle group has completed a series of sea trials in the South China Sea and returned to a People's Liberation Army's naval base in Qingdao, in the Shandong province of China.

The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier, left its home port Qingdao on 26 November 2013.

The aircraft carrier was anchored at a naval base in Sanya, Hainan province, it started mission training on 5 December 2013 and carried out tests as well as training exercises off the coast of Hainan Island for 37 days.

The Liaoning's sea trials were performed along with aircraft, naval vessels and submarines.

Xinhua reports the Chinese navy as saying in a statement, that during the mission, the Liaoning conducted over 100 drills and training exercises.

"The drills tested the structure's stress resistance, sailing speeds in deep water, navigational capabilities and weapons and equipment reliability."

"The drills tested the structure's stress resistance, sailing speeds in deep water, navigational capabilities and weapons and equipment reliability," the statement said.

The statement further said the carrier completed its first comprehensive combat training during the mission and performed a formation drill with other Chinese ships and submarines in the battle group, another first for the Chinese navy.

The Liaoning was supported by the navy's two missile destroyers, the Shenyang and Shijiazhuang, and two missile frigates, the Yantai and Weifang, which participated in the mission.

The use of four ships led military observers to speculate that the navy's carrier battle group has taken shape with the Liaoning as its core, according to the news agency.

* Notícia publicada a Naval Technology. Una fita més en el programa xinès de portaavions: la integració dins un grup naval.